Culture has become cliché Part 1 of 3:
I believe we, as business owners, managers, and employees, have lost sight of what our business is really about. If we continue to focus on transactions instead of relationships our businesses won’t live up to their full potential.
Last week I said that culture is what we say and do within our workplaces, both among our staff and with our customers. If you clearly define your culture and commit intentionally to strategies that strengthen and grow it, your business will set itself apart.
What defines a great culture? Having a nice kitchen, a fridge full of drinks, weekly lunches, and work-from-home Fridays are great benefits, but culture is about more than improving physical comfort.
I believe those things can really distract you from creating a culture of connection and growth.
Culture isn’t about aesthetics: it’s about people working together as a team. Simon Sinek said, “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” Agreed.
Many of us spend eight hours a day, five days a week in our workplaces, collaborating on projects, solving problems, innovating and delivering products and services. That’s a lot of time together, and a lot of communication with each other, customers, and vendors.
If our staff is spending that much time together, doesn’t it make sense to create a culture that encourages the people in the organization to grow as people? How can that manifest higher sales, foster innovation, deliver incredible customer service, increase market share and shareholder value? And how do we support staff in becoming better spouses, parents, friends, and community members?
People need more than basic survival in the company culture; they must be given the opportunity to thrive. They must thrive not only as employees inside the office but also as people who contribute to the community outside the office.
Teach Connection with your Staff
I want my team and staff to be more than simply incredible employees. I want them to be incredible in every role in their lives. I want to coach them in a way that leads them to being fantastic parents, partners, friends, and citizens.
When I support them in their personal growth, everyone benefits: the staff, our customers, our vendors, and even the community at large. Excellent employees rise up to lead in all areas of their lives, including their families, churches, volunteer organizations, sports teams and other adult and youth organizations. The benefits are limitless!
Consider demonstrating, through your own example, the advantages of being a better manager, a better husband or wife, a better son or daughter, a better friend and colleague. Teach them how to manage emotion and how to show kindness not just during the fun and easy times, but during times of high stress.
Your business is an ideal place to provide this kind of training. Sure, you could send your staff to external seminars and listen to podcasts and read long lists of books. And what would it look like if you, as an owner, CEO/President, Vice President, Manager, could supplement that knowledge and incorporate learning into your office culture?
Genuine relationships require a commitment to engaging in conversations based in truth and vulnerability. Honest conversations create trust and trust, in turn, creates strong relationships. Without trust, relationships remain limited and transactional instead of being grounded deeply and developing into genuine connection. This type of relationship trumps any transaction.
Relationship is about connection, not contracts.
When we launched our managed IT services division, called smadatek, we did away with an industry standard of using long-term contracts with our customers.
People thought I was crazy!
“That will never work! You’re going to lose money and customers will take advantage of you. How are you going to protect yourself if the customer decides to leave early?”
I believe that we can’t afford to confuse transactions with relationships. Transactions are about money and, if we can be honest, greed. They show up in the form of sales goals, margins, widgets sold, leads, dividends, bonuses, shareholder wealth, and tangibles. Transactions are what we measure and what, sadly, we’ve chosen as the metric to define success.
Are those outputs important? Absolutely. But should they be the primary focus? What is the real cost when we sacrifice relationships to achieve transactions?
Let’s acknowledge that revenue, market share, and shareholder wealth also can be increased as the by-products of strong relationships, not solely as the by-products of rigid contracts most people and consumers are accustomed to.
What if, instead, we provided a service so outstanding that customers didn’t want to leave? What if we focused on the customer relationship by being intentional with our words and actions? What would that look like? Wouldn’t everyone involved benefit from a strong customer relationship?
If we focused on the relationship with intention, would that act as a binder to continue the customer partnership versus a transactional contract? I thought it could. Now, I know it can.
What I’ve learned is that contracts really don’t set the terms of a relationship (any relationship for that matter); they merely dictate the terms of the transaction and ironically can even prevent a relationship from developing.
How many times have you had a bad experience with a customer service representative? Often, the only thing that keeps you from taking your business elsewhere is the contract you signed. Is that a good and strong relationship? No. The relationship is strictly contractual and isn’t based on loyalty.
Without a contract, every day, with every phone call, email, and personal interaction we get to build a stronger relationship with our customers: The result is trust and loyalty. Why do we need more customers if we can’t take exceptional care of the ones we already have?
Smadatek takes responsibility and ownership of building strong and long-lasting relationships within our organization and with our customers. Who wins in that culture? Everybody! And our customers love it!
Business is about people. People are about relationships. Relationships are about connection. Connection is cultivated through your office culture.
Next week we’ll explore some organizational strategies we’ve implemented to ensure our culture supports a high level of employee development, customer service, innovation, excellence, and customer retention. Stay tuned…